Everyone has their own experience. Here's mine.
There are so many family friendly activities it's ridiculous. My kids are happy with a swing and some grass, but there seems to be a constant stream of festivals, markets, activities, events and more.
There are some brilliant parks (Quarry) and nature reserves, great beaches... the list goes on.
And if I really want it, Perth is on my doorstep. Speaking of which...
Proximity to Perth
Anyone who has ever lived in remote WA will laugh at the fact that Mandurah is classified as "regional". 40 minutes up the freeway and you're in a city with 2 million people. It doesn't feel isolated. BUT, having said that, Mandurah is just far enough away that it has it's own identity and community. It feels much easier to get plugged in than in Perth. So Mandurah benefits from the best of both worlds... it is able to maintain a regional community vibe, while still being only a short drive to Perth.
I don't commute to Perth, though I know lots do. I certainly don't envy them. For those of us fortunate to both live AND work in Mandurah, life is fantastic. One doesn't have to endure the traffic nightmares of a major city, but can still access the perks of that city when needed.
If you think there's an actual crime problem in Mandurah, you need to stop reading the news and read some actual crime statistics. Here's a link to an article I did a year ago on crime in Mandurah. I'll do another one soon perhaps. We've never been broken into, and it's affordable to live in pretty much any suburb you want in Mandurah.
It gets too cold for me in winter. My first winter here I cursed the weather. But I discovered an amazing invention called thermal underwear, and haven't looked back. I'm sure I'll get used to the cold in time, but summers are perfect, the water lifestyle is brilliant, and just being down at the foreshore fills me with a sense of peace and tranquillity. It's a truly beautiful spot, and if you've lived anywhere else, you'll know it's not something to be taken for granted.
If you're wanting to work for a large multinational, you're probably going to have to consider commuting to Perth. If you love podcasts and audio books, you're fine. If you can't stand the idea of a train ride every day, there are still lots of opportunities, especially in tourism.
Mandurah seems to attract a lot of entrepreneurially minded people, as you may need to consider starting your own business if you can't find the job you want. But there's a lot of support for people heading down that path with organisations like Business Local (free support and advice), Make Place (co working space and lots of creative people) and good facilities in the libraries and free wifi at key locations. If you think the world owes you a high paying unskilled job, you might have trouble. But I have met plenty of Mandurah business owners who struggle to find good quality staff.
Regarding Mandurah's unemployment rate, I will say that correlation is not necessarily causation.
That is to say, some people claim that "there's a high percentage of unemployed people in Mandurah, therefore in Mandurah it is hard to find a job."
But that may not be exactly true. I've spoken with plenty of the locals and learned a very valuable insight: People who WANT to live on the dole like moving to Mandurah. Why? Because it's affordable, on the water, has great beaches, is easy to get around, and there's a train that takes them straight to Perth if they need to. It's hard to live in Scarborough or City Beach on the dole. So whether Mandurah has a higher unemployment rate because people who don't want to work are attracted to Mandurah, or whether it's genuinely harder to get work here, or a bit of both, is debatable.
What about the drug problem?
The stats seems to point to Mandurah being no worse than much of Perth. The main people I see who seem claim "location X" is bad for drugs, are people who hang around with druggies and have not lived anywhere else. I'm sure if you go looking for it you'll be able to find it, but I literally have never come across it.
All my neighbours are wonderful. My kids play with other kids in the street, and strangers I've had cause to engage with down town have invariably been super friendly. Customer service is usually pretty good, and my favourite coffee shops are always really nice. As mentioned earlier, Make Place have a really nice bunch of folks that are all trying to do good things in the community, and there's a bunch of community groups, local charities, and more that are full of kind and caring people. You really couldn't ask for a better bunch of people.
There was one priority for me in choosing a home in Mandurah, and that was NBN access. Some areas of Mandurah still do not have NBN, but many do. If you're looking for a home in Mandurah and high speed internet is important, just head to the NBN website before choosing your suburb.
Uber now operates in Mandurah, which is great. Between Uber and the train, I feel like Perth is just a podcast away.
Libraries are great, free wifi along the foreshore... I dunno. I'm a man of few needs. I will say it's hard to buy a nice cigar in Mandurah. But I have the internet for that.
This all seems overly positive, aren't there any negatives?
There are trade offs, sure. And it depends what you're comparing it to. There's no Northbridge-like night life. But then again, it's nice not having so many drunks staggering through the streets. There's fewer specialty shops than Perth, but there is no regional centre other than Mandurah where I'm able to just hop on a train, do a day's shopping in the middle of the city, then train it home in the evening.
I'd choose living in Mandurah over living in Perth's suburbia any day. And compared to other regional centres around WA, Mandurah is fantastic.